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; Revelation 16:1-11
(Revelation 15:1-8; Revelation 16:1-11)
THE SIGN OF THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES--THE VISION OF THE SEA OF GLASS MINGLED WITH FIRE-THE HARP-SINGERS STANDING BY IT-THE SEVEN PRIEST-ANGELS-THE GOLDEN BOWLS--NOT THE FRENCH REVOLUTION--THE PLAGUE OF SORES-THE PLAGUE OF THE BLOODY SEA-THE PLAGUE OF THE BLOODY RIVERS AND WATER-SPRINGS--THE PLAGUE OF SUN-HEAT--THE PLAGUE OF DARKNESS--NO PENITENCE FROM THESE JUDGMENTS.
Revelation 15:1-8. (Revised Text.) And I saw another sign in the heaven great and marvellous, seven angels having seven plagues, the last, because in them, the wrath of God was completed.
And I saw like to a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who conquer from the beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name, standing on [over or by] the sea of glass, having harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses, servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty, just and true thy ways, Thou the King of the nations: who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name? because alone holy, because all the nations shall come and worship in thy presence, because thy judgments [righteous doings] have been made manifest.
And after these things I saw, and there was opened the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in the heaven; and there came forth the seven angels who had the seven plagues out of the temple, clothed in pure bright linen, and girdled about their breasts with golden girdles. And one from among the four Living Ones gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who liveth to the ages of the ages. And the temple was filled with the smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no one could enter into the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.
Revelation 16:1-11. (Revised Text.) And I heard a great voice saying to the seven angels, Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth.
And the first went forth, and poured out his bowl into the earth; and there became a noisome and grievous sore upon the men who had the mark of the beast, and those who worshipped his image.
And the second poured out his bowl into the sea; and it became blood as of one dead, and the things in the sea, and every soul Of life, died.
And the third poured out his bowl into the rivers and the fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angels of the waters saying, Righteous art thou, who art and who wast, holy One, because thou hast judged thus: because they have shed blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; deserving are they. And I heard the altar saying, Yea, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are thy judgments.
And the fourth poured out his bowl on [or over] the sun; "and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. And the men were scorched with great scorching, and they blasphemed the name of the God, he who hath authority over these plagues; and they repented not to give glory to him.
And the fifth poured out his bowl on [or over] the throne of the beast; and his kingdom became darkened, and they bit their tongues from the pain, and they blasphemed the God of the heaven from their pain, and from their sores, and repented not out of their deeds.
The accomplishment of the Harvest and the Vintage brings to the end of this present world. The next in succession would be the setting up of the eternal Kingdom, and the evolution of the new heavens and earth. But the Harvest and the Vintage do not adequately set forth all that we need to know about these closing scenes. Further particulars included in this momentous period require to be shown in order to complete the picture. The fate of the infernal Trinity,--the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet,--and of what pertains to them, is to be more fully described before we come to the Millennium, the descent of the New Jerusalem, and the planting of God's Tabernacle with men. Hence the same ground covered by the visions of the Harvest and Vintage is traversed again and again with reference to particular objects and administrations. As we have four distinct Gospels to give us a full and accurate portraiture of the one glorious Saviour, so we have these several presentations with reference to one and the same momentous period of the end. Each vision, however, has its own particular office, scope, and features, giving some special aspect or phase in the general sum of events. It is not mere repetition of the same thing, but the separate presentation of particular administrations or occurrences of which the whole is made up.
Revelation 15:1-8 and Revelation 16:1-21 belong together. They form one whole, touching one important subject, to wit: the third or last woe. The contents bear a close analogy to the conclusion of Revelation 11:1-19, if they be not indeed the continuation and amplification of what was there summarily introduced; for all these visions are very intimately related, both in general subject and time. There the temple in heaven was opened, and lightning, voices, thunders, earthquake, and great hail followed. Here the same temple is opened, and out of it issue seven angels, with the seven last plagues, who empty their bowls of the wrath of God in calamities upon the wicked world, culminating in the very things named as the result of the opening there. There the Elders said that the nations were enraged, that God's wrath had come, and that the time to destroy them that corrupt the earth had been reached. Here we are shown the pouring out of that wrath, its particular instruments, subjects, operations, and results.
John begins by telling of "another sign in the heaven." In chapter 12 he told of two signs: the sign of the sun-clad Woman, and the sign of the great Red Dragon. It is with reference to them that he calls this "another sign." Three signs were given to Moses, Gideon, Saul, and Elijah. Three signs are mentioned in Matthew 24:1-51 as heralding the Lord's coming,--the sign of the Son of man in heaven, the putting forth of leaves by the withered fig-tree, and the lapse of the world into the condition in which it was at the time of the flood. And so we have here three signs. The signs of the Woman and the Dragon, answer to the first and second chapters of Exodus; the sign now before us, answers to the judgments which followed, through the ministry of Moses and Aaron.
This sign is "great and marvellous." It is great, as involving so much more in range and intensity than anything of the kind that has ever been; and it is marvellous, with reference to the unparalleled character of what it foretells. What it describes is altogether extraordinary, and on an astounding scale. It is the consummation of marvels in this present world. The sign itself is, "Seven Angels having seven plagues, the last ones, because in them the wrath of God was completed." Signs of healing accompanied the preaching of the Gospel; signs of death attend the end of the world. Much of the Apocalypse treats of plagues-"the plagues that are written in this Book." Those here signified are "the last," with reference to what happened to Egypt, or with reference to the judgments under the Seals and trumpets, or simply with reference to the particular end of things which they are to work. They are visitations upon the living world-upon men in the flesh. They have been named "the opening artillery of God, ere the shock of battle comes." The seven Angels who bear them have been likened to priests of heaven, pouring out the drink-offerings of wine over the sacrifice ere it is slain and consumed.
But before proceeding to give the particulars of this great and marvellous "sign," the Seer interjects another vision, of a more gracious order, though connected with these outpourings of the plagues. When the wicked are cut off, the righteous shall see it; and when these plagues fall upon Antichrist and his hosts, those who through suffering and death keep clear of his worship and mark, are on high, singing, and harping, and giving glory to God and the Lamb, as stroke upon stroke from the heavenly temple smites their oppressors. John writes: "I saw like to a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who conquer out from the Beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name, standing on, over, or by the sea of glass, having harps of God."
This likeness to a sea of glass reminds of that "glassy sea" which spread out before the throne in Revelation 4:1-11. If it is the same, it has become ominously commingled now; for there it was "like unto crystal" in clearness, but here it is "mingled with fire." There it seemed to be a part of the economy and pavement of the heaven; here it appears rather as a mighty reservoir of just judgments about to be precipitated upon the world below. There it looked like a sort of base on which the whole celestial establishment rested, representing perhaps the purity, vastness, and strength of God's counsels, on which all things depend; here it does not seem to be the support of anything, though the victors named may be over, by, or even on it. It is probably meant to symbolize the vastness, purity, justice and severity of the divine counsels in those retributions about to fall upon the wicked. It is best taken as a sea of just judgments which are poured forth in the seven final plagues, whilst in that regard at the same time a sea of blessed vindication and joy to those faithful ones whom the Beast persecuted unto death.
The picture of these victorious ones standing on the shore of this sea, holding harps of God, and singing the song of Moses, directly recalls the rescued and victorious children of Israel on the further side of the Red Sea, beholding the discomfiture of their foes, and singing and rejoicing in the mighty accomplishments of the wonderworking Jehovah. "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods, who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Exodus 15:1-11.) And here the victors sing the song of Moses over again, looking out upon another sea of judgment as its fiery waves dash upon their oppressors. Here, however, the song goes beyond that of Moses, and takes in that of the Lamb as well, which is the song of victory over sin and death, the song of justification and eternal life through the blood and triumph of Jesus, whose dominion and right as the Lord of the nations are attested by these mighty judgments. Of old it was prophesied, that, when "the king" for whom Tophet is ordained and prepared is smitten, the victory over him shall be celebrated "with tabrets and harps" (Isaiah 30:32-33); and here John beholds the fulfilment. They stand by the sea of glass mingled with fire, having harps of God, and they sing, saying, "Great and marvellous are Thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty, just and true are Thy ways, Thou, the King of the nations! Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name, alone holy? because all the nations shall come and worship in Thy presence, because Thy judgments have been made manifest!" When consuming wrath falls on the servants of the false god, the true God's worshippers are beyond the fiery sea, singing their adoration to their Deliverer. Having felt the Dragon's wrath, they are joyously free and secure from the great wrath of God. And their outlook is one of abiding blessedness. Verily, there is nothing like being firm and true to what is right. Whatever it may cost for the time, it will be amply recompensed in the great day.
With this statement concerning those whom the Beast and False Prophet cannot conquer, the holy Apostle proceeds with what he began to tell about as "another sign in the heaven"--the seven last plagues. He first describes the heavenly economy of them, and then the execution of them, together with their several effects. Let us follow him reverently.
He saw "the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven opened." This was the innermost part of the temple, the Temple of the temple, the Holy of holies, the deepest centre of the dwelling-place and throne of God.
The tables of stone, inscribed with the precepts of the Law, which God gave to Moses, are called the "tables of testimony." These were commanded to be put into the holy Ark, which thence was called "the Ark of the testimony." This Ark had its place in the innermost and holiest department of the Tabernacle, which thus became the particular tent or "tabernacle of the testimony." And this innermost shrine of the temple in heaven, John saw open, revealing, as stated, in Revelation 11:19, the very ark itself, and indicating that all the hidden powers of eternity were now about to show themselves in active earthward administrations.
From the depth of this holiness issued seven angels. They are priest-angels, for they are clothed in pure bright linen, and girded about their breasts with golden girdles, which is the priest's dress. They appear as priests, because they come for the sacrificing of a great sacrifice to the offended holiness and justice of God. The girdle of the Jewish high priest was a mixture of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine-twined linen, along with the "gold" (Leviticus 16:4); the girdles here are pure gold; for the temple is higher, and the administration holier; and the officiators belong to heaven, not earth.
"And one from among the four Living Ones gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God." This is not the first time we hear of these Living Ones taking part in the actual administration of judgment. They are indeed glorified men; but "do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" (1 Corinthians 6:2-3.) When the horsemen of chapter 6 were sent forth, "one from among the four Living Ones" gave the command, as with a voice of thunder. Here a corresponding part of the same judgment work is to be executed, and the vessels containing the wrath of God are handed out by one of the same Living Ones. The vessels themselves were not bottles, as our English version would intimate, but shallow, pan-like, golden bowls, or censers, such as were used in the temple to hold the fire when incense was burned. They are priestly censers, as in Revelation 8:5. That which gives vitality to the prayers of saints and sustains the Jehovah worship, at the same time carries the burning coals of judgment upon the wicked. That which seethes and smokes in these holy censers is God's punishment upon transgression, the consuming intolerance of His holiness toward sin and sinners. Seven of these bowls, full to the brim with the wrath of Him who liveth for the ages of the ages, are thus handed to the seven priest-angels to be poured upon the sacrifice preparatory to its final consumption. And terrible is the smoke of their burning.
When the first tabernacle was dedicated, a cloud filled it, and Moses was not able to enter into it because of the cloud of the glory of the Lord. (Exodus 40:34-35) When Solomon's temple was dedicated the cloud of the divine glory so filled the house that the priests could not stand to minister because of it. (1 Kings 8:10-11.) It was a cloud then, veiling the insufferable brightness of that Jehovah-presence which it indicated; but here is the day of the fierceness of divine wrath, and in place of the shadowing cloud is the lurid fiery smoke;--the same which Isaiah saw (Isaiah 6:1-4) in his vision of the enthroned Jehovah. It fills the temple in heaven; and so intense is the manifestation of the divine glory and power that no one, even of the sons of God, is able to enter until the filled censers have been quite emptied out upon the doomed world. And from the midst of these awful signs a great voice sounds, like the trumpet sounding from the smoke and fire on Mount Sinai, saying to the seven angels, "Go, and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth."
Glancing now for a moment at some of the current interpretations of these seven last plagues, we cannot but wonder that any should consider all this tremendous and unparalleled ado in heaven to be for nothing more than a few petit events in the ordinary course of human history. Yet some gravely tell us that the first bowl is the French Revolution; the second bowl, the naval wars of that Revolution; the third bowl, the battles of Napoleon in Italy; the fourth bowl, the tyranny and military oppression of Napoleon; the fifth bowl, the calamities which befell the city of Rome and the Pope in consequence of the French Revolution; the sixth bowl, the wane of the Turkish power, the return of the Jews to Palestine, and the subtle influences of infidelity, Popery, and Puseyism; and the seventh, some further war with Romanism and disaster to the city of Rome. But can it be possible that God Almighty from His everlasting seat, the temple in heaven, all angels and holy ones on high, should thus be in new and unexampled commotion, with the mightiest of all celestial demonstrations, over nothing but a few occurrences in a small part of the smallest section of the globe, and those occurrences far less in meaning or moment than many others in other ages! According to such interpretation mankind have been living for the last 100 years amid the extreme terrors of "the great and terrible day of the Lord" without ever knowing it! yea, dreaming the while that we are happily gliding into the era of universal liberty and peace! Are France and Italy the earth! Are half a dozen naval battles, scattered over a dozen years, and touching here and there a speck of sea hardly to be pointed out on a terrestrial globe, to be taken as the turning of the whole ocean to blood, by which everything that lives in the sea dies! If Napoleon's artillery was the sunscorch of blasphemers, was not the blasphemy of the scorchers by far worse than the blasphemy of the scorched! Alas for the worth of Revelation if this is the proper way of reading it!
The greatest plagues of judgment of which we read in the past were those poured out upon ancient Egypt. They were literal plagues, which happened according to the terms in which they are recorded. These seven last plagues are the consummation of God's judgment plagues, including in them all that have gone before, and rendering in final and intensest perfection what was previously rehearsed on a smaller scale, preliminary to the great performance. What the preparatory rehearsal was, that must the final rendering be. The last plagues must therefore be literal too. In what sense or degree, however, was the French Revolution, or the doings of Napoleon Bonaparte, a consummation of the plagues of Egypt? Read, and ponder.
The first priest-angel "poured out his bowl into the earth, and there became a grievous sore upon the men who had the mark of the Beast, and those who worship his image." Did none but Romanists suffer from the French Revolution and the military despotism which it evolved? If so, this plague does not refer to that event; for it touches only such as have the mark of the Beast. The sores of Lazarus at the rich man's gate were not Romish errors, nor French infidelity; but the sore of this angel's outpouring is denoted by the same word which described the ailment of Lazarus. It is the Egyptian plague of ulcers intensified. Burnt earth was there scattered, "and it became a boil, breaking forth with blains, upon man and upon beast;" and it was "upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians." (Exodus 19:8-12.) When Moses afterwards pronounced the curses of heaven upon those who disown God and throw off allegiance to Him, he said: "The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. The Lord shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head." (Deuteronomy 28:15; Deuteronomy 28:27; Deuteronomy 28:35.) This has never yet been fulfilled; but John here sees it fulfilled upon those who have cast off the worship of Jehovah for the worship and mark of the Antichrist.
"And the second poured out his bowl into the sea; and it became blood, as of one dead, and the things in the sea, every soul of life, died." So far as the naval battles of the French Revolution affected the sea, they killed nothing of the living things therein, but fattened them, and scarcely stained a single wave; so far were they from turning all the ocean's waters into bloody clots. One of the plagues of Egypt was, that God "turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish." (Psalms 105:29.) Under the second trumpet (Revelation 8:8) the sea was affected, and the third of it was turned into blood. But here the whole sea is affected, and a change is wrought which makes all its waters like to the blood of one dead,-clotted, putrescent, and utterly destructive of the life of what lives in the sea. Hengstenberg and others say that we are here to think of "the shedding of blood in war;" but there is not a word said about war; and if living things in the sea mean human beings, peoples, nations, tribes, and tongues, this plague sweeps them all out of existence; for every living thing in the sea dies of this blood. If it refers to war, it is a very anomalous war, for it leaves neither conquered nor conquerors, and the plagues which follow have no subjects on which to operate. Stuart holds that "a literal fulfilment is not to be sought after;" but if it is not literal, then were not the plagues of Egypt literal, nor is any other sort of fulfilment possible; and thus the tremendous record is rendered meaningless. I take it as it reads; and if any dissent, on them is the burden of proving some other sense, and of reducing to agreement their mutually destructive notions as to what it does mean. Take it as God has caused it to be written, and there can be no disagreement; take it in any other way, and the uncertainty is endless. "And the third poured out his bowl into the rivers and the fountains of waters; and they became blood." When Moses stretched out his hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon all their pools of water, "all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood; and the fish that were in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt." (Exodus 7:19-21.) And what thus happened with one river and one country, now occurs in all waters in all countries. Under the third trumpet (Revelation 8:10-11), a third of the rivers and watersprings became nauseous and noxious with bitterness; but this plague touches them all, and turns them into blood, so that the hosts of Antichrist can find nothing to drink but blood. A more dreadful plague can hardly be imagined; but it is just. "The angel of the waters," he who has the administration of this plague, is amazed at the greatness of the infliction, but breaks forth in celebration of the righteousness of Him who was, and is [now no longer to come, because already come], and praises Him for having thus judged. The punishment is full of horror; but it is deserved. They shed the blood of saints and prophets, and it is due that now their only drink is blood. "Yea, Lord God the Almighty," answers the altar, "true and just are Thy judgments!" When God once comes with His terrible awards upon the wicked, the righteousness of them will be so conspicuous, and the justice and truth of His administrations will be so clear and manifest, that it will not be in the power of any holy, being to find a flaw, to raise a question, or to withhold the profoundest Amen. And when the earth refuses to yield any drink but blood to its apostate population, angels, and altar, and all heaven must confess and answer that it is just; they deserve it.
"And the fourth poured out his bowl [here the preposition changes from εις to ἐπἰ] on or over the sun; and it was given to it [the sun] to scorch men [mankind] with fire. And the men were scorched with great scorching." This belongs to the predicted "signs in the sun." Under the fourth trumpet (Revelation 8:12), the heavenly bodies were affected; but in a different way from this. There the sun was one-third darkened; here its power and heat are increased, till its rays become like flames. The sun exists and shines by God's command; and He can make it scorch and torture, as well as cheer and warm. Moses and Malachi have spoken of that day as one that shall "burn as an oven," when men shall be "devoured with burning heat." (Deuteronomy 32:24; Malachi 4:1.) Here also belongs the fulfilment of Isaiah's words: "The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken down the everlasting covenant, therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left." (Isaiah 24:4-13.) Some say, "It is not of the natural scorching of the sun's rays, and of the injurious effects flowing from it, such as excessive heats, drought, and famine, that we are here to think;" but of what else can we think? It is the sun that is smitten; that smiting causes the emission of rays that scorch and burn to a degree that John says they are fire; and to think of anything but scorching and consuming heat from the sun is simply to browbeat the words of inspiration. Men are scorched by an extraordinary power of the sun, oppressed, burned, killed by its fiery rays, smitten with sunstroke, overwhelmed with siroccos, suffocated with solar heat; and yet we are not to think of the sun, or of any injurious effects from its burning rays! O the havoc which men make of God's word to fit it to their faulty theories! Here is one of the last plagues of "the great and terrible day of the Lord;" and it is nothing less than God's glorious sunshine, intensified with fiery heat, so that it burns and scorches earth and man, decimating the inhabitants of city and country alike. Disastrous plague!
We would think that such a succession of ills would bring the most infatuated to their senses, and that there would come forth from all the world one loud repentant cry to God for mercy. We would think it impossible for people with souls in them to hold out against such exhibitions of angry Almightiness. But no; they only blaspheme the name of the God having command of these plagues, and repent not to give glory to Him. They have all sold themselves to hell and received the sacrament and seal of it upon their bodies, and they only dare and sin on to their inevitable damnation.
Many are waiting for times of affliction and death to bring them to repentance and salvation; but those who wilfully sin away their good days count in vain on something softening and remedial from the judgments of their despised and incensed Maker. The sun may scorch, and extort still further blasphemies, but it cannot change the stubborn heart, or burn into it the saving fear and love of God. Sin is a cancer, which, if left to run too long, can never more be cured. Another judgment-plague descends, but with no better effect.
"The fifth Angel poured out his bowl on or over the throne of the Beast; and his kingdom became darkened, and they bit their tongues from the pain, and they blasphemed the God of the heaven from their pain, and from their sores, and repented not out of their deeds." The effects of these judgments overlap each other. The sores of the first plague are still felt during the second and third, and even here under the fifth. This proves that these plagues all fall upon the people of one and the same generation, and hence dare not be extended through centuries. The Antichrist has but 3½ years, and all seven of these last plagues fall upon him and his followers. Here his very throne is assailed, and his entire dominion is filled with darkness. The last but one of the Egyptian plagues was a plague of darkness. The Book of Wisdom (17:21) says: "Over them was spread a heavy night, an image of that darkness which should afterward receive them; but yet were they unto themselves more grievous than the darkness." Here is a corresponding darkness, coextensive with the worldwide empire of this Beast. From the centre of his kingdom, even to its utmost limits, everything is darkened. Isaiah prophesied of this when he said, "Behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people." (Isaiah 60:2.) Joel prophesied of it when he said: "The day of the Lord cometh, a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness." "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood." (Joel 2:1-2; Joel 2:31.) Nahum prophesied of it when he said that the fierceness of God's anger shall be poured out like fire, and "darkness shall pursue His enemies." (Nahum 1:6; Nahum 1:8.) Our blessed Saviour prophesied of it when He declared: "In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall," failing in all their offices of lightgivers. (Mark 13:24-25.) And great are the miseries of that darkness; for it causes those who feel it to bite their tongues by reason of the distress which it adds to all the rest of their torments. And is it nothing but the suppression of the monasteries and Romish clergy in France in 1789, and Napoleon's levies upon the revenues and seizure of the properties and person of a helpless old Pope? Have all the prophets been thus stirred up by the Holy Ghost to tell the world of those few, limited, and temporary calamities incident to ordinary human ambition and war, that all men of all ages might stand in awe and fear God lest they should come under Napoleon's dealings with the papacy? Would it not seem as if some shadows of this coming darkness were already upon the understandings of some of Christ's professed ministers? God help them to the light, that they may repent out of their sad mistreatments of these great revelations, and give to Him the glory by doing just honour to His Holy Word!
The darkness which thus comes over the kingdom of the Beast must be literal, as that of Egypt was; for that was the prelibation of this,-the pre-rehearsal of what is to come. If not literal, it is impossible for any man to tell us what it is. People may guess and reason, but that cannot fix the meaning of God's word. And to carry the theory of a mere "figurative representation" into all the sacred predictions which refer to it, can only spread this darkness upon some of the most momentous portions of divine revelation. It is at all events vastly better to risk mistake by clinging fast to the plain sense of what God has caused to be written for our learning, than to go floundering through a world of fancies, ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. And if in the great day of fulfilment, when God shall turn these prophecies into living realities, things should not turn out according to the terms used by the Holy Ghost, we shall be the more excusable for having clung to the record as it stands. In any event, our simple faith will be our best apology.
This darkening of the Beast's kingdom, added to the earlier inflictions, brings terrible distress. The description indicates the intensest writhings of anguish, the very madness of vexation and pain. The people who suffer these plagues bite their tongues, chew them, gnaw them, as their best diversion from their misery. Their tongues have spoken blasphemies, and they themselves thus punish them. Earth has become like hell for wickedness, and so it becomes like hell for darkness and torment,-nay, still further like hell, because there is no repentance in its inhabitants. Instead of cursing themselves for their impieties, they curse God as the offender, for thus interfering with their preferences and their peace. To the ulcers, the bloody waters, the sun-scorches, now comes this horrible darkness; and a God of such administrations they disdain to honour, even under all their miseries. They will gnaw their tongues with pain and rage rather than speak a prayer of penitence to Him. Nothing but cursing and horrid denunciations will they utter. When they saw the two slain Witnesses come to life again and ascend to heaven, they were willing to own that the God of heaven is God, and to give Him something of His glory. But it was only a temporary reverence, which soon faded away. Here they are again compelled to acknowledge Him as "the God of heaven," but it is only to heap new blasphemies on His name.
Some talk of conversion in hell, and of an ultimate restoration of the wicked. Does this presentation look as if such a thing were possible? If hell-torments can cure men of their wickedness, why are not these people subdued to penitence? These are the outpourings of that very divine wrath which makes hell; but where is the remedial impression, the turning from sin, the seeking for reconciliation? And while sin lasts, hell must last. These people have rebelled until the very spirit of perdition has settled in upon their souls, and henceforth there is no more hope for them. Another bowl of wrath is poured out; but its effect is the opening of the ways for the gathering of them together to the scene of slaughter; and then follows the last, which lets loose upon them all the long-chained thunders of angered Omnipotence, overwhelming their works and lives in a sea of blood!
Many, my friends, are the pictures of God's judgments upon those who reject His Gospel, and refuse to have Him rule over them. A dreadful catalogue we have had before us tonight. But with how poor and feeble an interest do many regard these momentous revelations! There is perhaps nothing which a sinner, or neglecter of God and his soul, so little expects, as the punishment of his sins. Of ungodliness in general; its sinfulness, its danger, and the certain judgment of God upon it, he can discourse with fluency and confidence. He has no doubt that God is a holy God, and will by no means spare those who fail to make their peace with Him. But when it comes to his own sins, negligence and disobedience, what thought or feeling has he of that awful accountability which in the abstract he so readily admits? To what extent does he realize that his sins will find him out, or that he is the one in danger? He listens; he assents; he hears with pleasure the array of reasoning about righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come; he even admires the vivid and faithful preaching of the sure and terrible wrath of God upon transgressors; and yet he goes on in his sins and disobedience, betimes a little disturbed, but soon recomposed in his impenitence, unconverted from his old ways, till the end comes, and he dies as he lived, unreconciled to God, unsanctified, and unsaved.
Have I thus hit upon the case of any one now listening to me? Then let this subject be to you an effectual warning. Here is the laying open to your view of what must come upon the unbelieving world. Here is the sacred foreshowing of the end which awaits them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of His Son. There is an indissoluble ligament which binds together impenitence in sin and inevitable damnation. Even the incense bowls of the holy altar are full of the wrath of God for all despisers and neglecters of the great salvation. Angels of the heavenly temple stand girt in gold, prepared and ready to pour them out. And we need only listen with an attentive ear to hear the rustle and mutter of the dreadful thunder of those cataracts of God's indignation upon them that turn not from their sins. Have you never felt the sting and rankling poison in your soul, if not in your very bones, of some past transgressions of which you have made yourself guilty? Has your conscience never smitten you, and made your sleep uneasy, and tinged your thinking with bitterness, for the sort of life you have been leading? Is there not some conscious shame and sense of wretchedness going along with the indulgence even of those darling lusts and dislike of sacred things which you allow to have place in your heart? And what is all this but the premonitory drops of that wrath of God which must presently come in great deluging showers? O child of man, give heed, and turn, and fly, before the threatening avalanche of the Almighty's judgments comes! And now, whilst this little feeling of anxiety and disturbance is upon you, let it not pass without a thorough change in all your ways; lest the next time the feeling of compunction comes, it may find you amid the hopeless torments of eternal death.
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Seiss, Joseph A. "Commentary on Revelation 15". Seiss' Lectures on Leviticus and Revelation. https://www.studylight.org/
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